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Starting a 501(c)3 organization: Step-by-step guide

Starting a nonprofit organization can be a rewarding way to make a positive impact on your community or a cause you care about. Here are some general steps to consider when starting a nonprofit:

Determine your mission and vision:

Start by identifying the cause or issue you want to address with your nonprofit. Define your mission, vision, and values that will guide your organization's work.

Choose a name:

Pick a name that reflects your nonprofit's purpose and is memorable and unique. Check with your state for nonprofit corporation name availability and name requirements.

Recruit a board of directors:

A board of directors is responsible for overseeing the nonprofit's operations and making strategic decisions. You'll need to find people who support your mission and have the skills and expertise needed to help your organization succeed. It is best to start with a minimum of three directors.

Incorporate your nonprofit:

Incorporation creates a separate legal entity for your nonprofit, which protects your board members and employees from personal liability. You'll need to file articles of incorporation with your state's secretary of state or similar agency. If you plan to apply for 501(c)3 tax-exemption, you will need to include IRS required provisions in your state articles.

Apply for tax-exempt status:

To be recognized as a tax-exempt nonprofit by the IRS, you'll need to apply for 501(c)3 status. This involves filling out Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ and providing detailed information about your organization's activities, finances, and governance. Read our section on How to Apply for 501(c)3 Tax-Exemption for more details. Check out the IRS frequently asked questions about Form 1023.

Raise funds:

Nonprofits rely on donations, grants, and other sources of funding to support their work. Develop a fundraising plan that includes multiple strategies for raising money, such as grants, events, and individual donations.

Launch your programs and services:

Once you've secured funding, you can begin implementing your nonprofit's programs and services. Stay focused on your mission and regularly evaluate your progress to ensure you're making an impact.

Contact us at (800) 594-2271 for more information on how we can save you time and money getting your nonprofit started right.

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